Chronic Pain and Acute Pain- What’s the Difference, anyways?
What’s the difference between chronic pain and acute pain? That’ a question many pain patients have when relating pain symptoms like muscular pain, joint stiffness, or migraine headaches to their physicians. Some fundamental differences between acute pain and chronic pain involve causes, patterns, and pain treatment.
“Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but
for the heart to conquer it.” -Rabindranath Tagore
Pain is a healthy response, usually
The pain response is a necessary function of your nervous system. When you burn your finger on the stove, your nerve cells send out urgent pain-inducing messages throughout your central nervous system. The painful sensation is a warning for you to tend to your injury before it becomes infected.
Sometimes, pain symptoms like backaches, headaches, and stomach cramps occur without any injuries. When that happens, it signifies a pain disorder of the nervous system, and finding treatment to alleviate the pain can be complex.
Acute pain causes
Acute pain usually occurs from an injury. In describing their pain symptoms, acute pain sufferers tend to describe physical sensations like sharp pain, dull throbbing, or general achiness. Acute pain symptoms start abruptly and taper off as the injury heals, generally after a few weeks or months, but not much longer.
- Labor pains
- Cuts and bruises
- Broken bones
- Twisted ligaments
Chronic pain causes
If acute pain is not treated, it may escalate into chronic pain. Symptoms may include severe headaches, limited movement, fatigue, and debilitating muscular aches.
Unlike acute pain, chronic pain symptoms can last for many months or years. In the case of fibromyalgia, pain is more intense and magnified by certain triggers. Since there is no apparent injury, treating chronic pain is a matter of experimenting with various pain relievers, supplements, and physical therapies.
Chronic pain sufferers describe their pain in more emotional terms than acute pain patients do, wrestling with feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, and despair. Many describe their pain disorder as a dark entity, or an invader that has permeated their lives.
Examples of chronic pain causes are:
- Migraine headaches
- Back pain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Celiac disease
- Neuropathy, such as vitamin B12 deficiency and diabetic nerve pain
Treating chronic pain
Determining the appropriate chronic pain treatment is a process of elimination. Your doctor may ask you to experiment with a variety of pain relievers in treating the pain symptoms, in addition to incorporating natural alternative medications for well-rounded pain management.
A strong correlation exists between vitamin B12 deficiency and chronic pain disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, celiac disease, and diabetes, so it is highly recommended to take vitamin B12 supplements for optimum health with chronic pain .
Popular treatments and tactics for chronic pain management include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Narcotics (morphine or codeine)
- Localized anesthetic and nerve blocks
- Vitamin supplements, including vitamin B12
- Acupuncture or acupressure
- Physical therapy, including chiropractic care
- Psychological counseling
- Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga
- Behavior modification
- In some cases, surgery may be recommended
Please tell us…
Do you suffer from a type of chronic pain that isn’t listed above? Which pain treatments have you tried, and which have been the most helpful?
If you currently use prescription painkillers or narcotics, have you considered supplementing with natural ingredients that do not cause side effects?
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